tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 27, 2013 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
court just today, that was then, this is now. it's where we begin tonight with our justice correspondent, pete williams, at the court. pete, good evening. >> reporter: brian, here's the question about the voting rights act. it puts an extra burden on states with a history of discriminating at the polls. but does it cover the areas of the country where the problem is the worst? tonight, a bare majority of the supreme court seems to think the answer is no, and if that's the case, the law is in big trouble. ♪ >> reporter: dramatizing the high stakes, civil rights veterans passionately defended the law outside the court. >> we are not going back. we have come too far. we made too much progress to go back. >> at stake, the most important civil rights law ever passed, a response to widespread voter discrimination in the south. president johnson signed the voting rights act in 1965 at the u.s. capitol. fast forward, 48 years. >> i barack hussein obama, do solemnly swear.
>> reporter: now with the first african-american president re-elected and more minority in congress and state houses, shelby county, alabama, south of birmingham, says the law renewed in 2006 is so outdated, it's no longer constitutional. >> the america that elected barack obama is not the america of our parents. and our grandparents. >> reporter: the law requires states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before changing how they conduct elections. all or part of eight southern states are covered. also arizona, alaska and parts of six others. it was used just last year to block strict voter i.d. laws in texas and south carolina. >> it deters and blocks voting discrimination in places in the country where that discrimination has been the most persistent and adaptive. >> reporter: today, the court's four liberals strongly defended it. justice kaygan said the formula for figuring which state needs to be covered seems to be working well since they account for 56% of all lawsuits.
justice breyer said congress concluded don't change horses in the middle of the stream, because we still have a ways to go. but the court's conservatives seem to agree the law is outdated. massachusetts said head chief justice roberts not covered by the law has the worst ratio of african-american to white voter turnout. mississippi, he said, has the best. the post world war ii marshall plan, said justice kennedy, was very good too, but times change. and justice scalia said the law is an example of what he called the perpetuation of racial entitlement. once such laws are adopted, he said, it's very difficult to get out of them through the normal political process. the court seems to be at least on the verge of striking down the coverage formula. and if it does, congress would have the politically explosive chore of drawing a whole new map, saying where discrimination is still a problem and where it isn't, and that would be a very tall order, brian. >> pete williams, present for the arguments today inside the supreme court. pete, thanks. and now to rome. there continues to be an
emotional time in the catholic church, and there is no road map for what's happening right now. pope benedict is abdicating. he said his farewell today. he flies off tomorrow, and then the gathering starts to pick his replacement. nbc's anne thompson was at the vatican for all of it today. anne, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. you know, in his final days, pope benedict has shown the world he has the ability to surprise. first in his decision to abdicate. and then today in his last public speech, revealing the personal toll leading the catholic church has taken on him. they came to witness history. >> i think this is something we're going to be able to look back at and tell our grandkids we were there. >> reporter: to say thank you. >> for all of us, he has been a really amazing teacher. >> reporter: and applaud the first pope in 700 years to voluntarily step down. >> i'm sure that he's really a very intelligent man, that he cares more about the church than
about his role in the church. >> reporter: respect and affection is benedict's trouble pontificate comes to an end. >> i continue to accompany the church with my prayers and i ask each of you to pray for me. >> reporter: in his unusually personal sermon, benedict called the papacy a great weight, filled with joy and difficulty. speaking of the rough seas he encountered, he conceded there were times when the lord seemed to sleep. for a moment, the burden seemed to lift. but not for long. today the cardinal who will announce the new pope said the cardinal electors should be told more about the secret report into vatican corruption. monday, benedict said it would be read only by him and his successor. >> i think they want to know the nature of the problem. they want to know the extent of it. and they want to be able to
measure candidates for the papacy against the depth of those problems. >> reporter: corruption is just one issue facing the next pope. he will have to deal with clergy sex abuse and a younger generation that is drifting away. >> the one thing that changes with every pontificate is the style, face, manner. the one thing that doesn't change is the message. and so we have to find ways of packaging the message so that it actually gets to this generation. >> reporter: a challenge that the 85-year-old benedict has made clear needs the energy of a younger man. tomorrow, benedict will meet with the 100 cardinals who have come to say goodbye, and then he will get in a helicopter and fly off to castel gandolfo to begin his life as pope emeritus. brian? >> anne thompson, thanks. back to washington. there was a senate hearing today
on the question of banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips. and it became apparent early on the emotions on this subject are still boiling, as they were on the day we learned of the attack in newtown, connecticut. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: on capitol hill, it was raw and gut-wrenching. >> i'm jesse lewis' dad. >> reporter: the father of 6-year-old jesse lewis, a first grader, gunned down at sandy hook elementary with 19 classmates and 6 adults. >> jesse was the love of my life. he was the only family i have left. it's hard for me to be here today. to talk about my deceased son. but i have to. i'm his voice. >> reporter: neil heslin today called for a ban on assault weapons. emotions ran high all day. >> it's time for congress to pick a side.
this time i hope it's law enforcement's. >> reporter: the milwaukee police chief got into it with republican senator lindsey graham, who today said he owns a so-called assault weapon over the need for background checks on people who want to buy a gun. >> how many cases -- >> you know, it doesn't matter. it's a paper thing. i want to stop 76 -- i want to finish the answer. >> no. >> i want to stop 76,000 people from buying guns illegally. that's what a background check does. if you think we're going to do paperwork prosecutions, you're wrong. >> isn't it really about who has the gun sometimes more than the gun itself? >> reporter: meanwhile, the vice president went before state attorneys general to again push for gun legislation. >> the excuse that it's too politically risky to act is no longer acceptable. >> reporter: with emotions running high on both sides, an assault weapons ban faces an uphill battle. tom costello, nbc news washington. a big shock to the community
of santa cruz, california. two veteran police officers are dead. the first deaths ever for that department in the line of duty. the gunman was shot to death in a wild standoff with law enforcement, much of which was captured on video. it all started when the officers, one male, one female, came to his door to interview him about sexual assault accusations. looks like a big u.s. policy change toward syria is on the way. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell is telling us tonight, the u.s. will announce a major shift tomorrow, a plan to provide aid directly to a select group of syrian rebels. but we're told it won't involve weapons directly. secretary of state john kerry has landed in rome tonight where he will meet tomorrow with leaders of that syrian opposition. back in this country tonight, we're now just 48 hours until that so-called sequester kicks in. the massive across the board budget cuts to the government and american economy. as the clock ticks down, it doesn't appear anyone in
washington is in any great hurry to stop it. president obama and speaker boehner spoke about it for precisely 60 seconds today. the president isn't even scheduled to meet with congressional leaders until friday, and that's the day of the deadline. in the meantime, and beyond the dire hype, these cuts are going to have real-life effects on the daily lives of a lot of americans, including civilian defense employees. they're rapidly losing patience, and our pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski, has our report from huntsville, alabama. >> reporter: for now, the tank and armored vehicle repair lines at anniston army depot in alabama are humming. but the line workers are fuming. >> it's affecting me mentally. it's stressing me out. i'm a single parent. and i'm the sole provider for them. so it's going to be hard. >> reporter: the army predicts that depot's budget will be cut by $710 million, more than 3,000 civilian defense workers would
take a 20% pay cut. 370 temporaries would lose their jobs. >> i can't pay my bills, i lose my house, i have to get a second job to try to pay for my stuff that i've already acquired. >> at red stone arsenal in huntsville, nearly 21,000 government workers will also take a pay cut. 16,000 private contractors could face cutbacks. deep cuts could red stone would be devastating to the city of huntsville. >> it clearly has an impact on the local economy. red stone arsenal is the primary economic engine for north alabama. >> reporter: huntsville mayor, tommy battle, says the political squabbling and uncertainty in washington has already brought the city's economy to a screeching halt. >> we've got businesses that don't spend money, businesses that are not hiring. businesses that aren't planning for the future, because they don't know what the government is going to do. >> reporter: but the cuts go even deeper. at phoenix services, many physically or mentally disabled produce harnesses for army parachutes and burial flags for military funerals.
there are 550 nonprofits like phoenix that employ more than 130,000 seriously disabled workers. as government contractors, many of those jobs are at risk. but ceo brian dodson says each of these jobs saves thousands in public assistance. >> and so for taxpayers, eliminating our jobs is going to cost them money. >> reporter: but for these workers, it's not just about the paycheck. it's about the job. jim miklaszewski, nbc news, huntsville. >> quick note on our weather tonight. everywhere you looked across the plains and midwest all the way to the rockies down to texas, it was the big dig today for a lot of folks, shoveling, plowing out from under yesterday's heavy snow that spread over such a wide area in our country. power crews are also dealing with the wet, heavy snow on trees, icing on power lines in some places. the system is still dropping snow toward the east, it should continue right through friday. still ahead, as we continue
for decades, commercial fishing has been the lifeblood of the new england coast. it helped to feed a nation, and nowhere is that more true than in gloucester, massachusetts, where men have gone down to the sea in ships for generations. but for reasons that are complex and confounding, including the effects of climate change, the federal government is about to impose a kind of perfect storm of new rules on cod fishermen that will end their way of life. our report tonight from nbc's ron mott in gloucester. >> reporter: gloucester, massachusetts is america's oldest fishing port dating back nearly 400 years. its way of life made famous by the hollywood blockbuster, "the
perfect storm" about fishermen facing a deadly hurricane. >> so this is the moment of truth. are you gloucester men? >> yeah, we're gloucester men. >> reporter: but that gloucester way of life is dying, one bucket at a time. >> what we have here is cod. that's like the major cash crop, if you will. if you eliminate that, you are basically cutting off legs and saying, yeah, can you live without them? >> reporter: in may, new federal restrictions will cut the catch limit of atlantic cod in the nearby gulf of maine by 77%, after decades of overfishing, confirmed in tests showing the species in danger, say officials. >> if the fishermen were catching lots of cod, i would say there's a reason to criticize the science. but the fishermen are not catching today. >> reporter: in fact, they haven't met their cod quota since they were issued in 2010. yet fishermen like donald king, who has already downsized his operation from ten employees to two say they're now being forced to make due on even less.
>> we're at the end of the rope. how can you ask anybody to take a 77% reduction in their ability to earn and survive? >> reporter: even before these reductions go into effect, the fleet here in gloucester has been reeling in recent years, down nearly a third since 2009, and just today, these fishermen say they can count just two boats, actually, out on the water working. russell sherman has hammered out a decent living since the '70s, but it's tougher these days as the captain of "the lady jane". >> after 30 years of work and obeying the law and doing what you're told and working darn hard, too, all of a sudden you hit a brick wall. >> reporter: richard gaines works for "the gloucester daily times." >> you see it in the community. that's what gloucester is, it's a fishing port. and if it's not a fishing port, i don't know what it's going to be. >> reporter: an iconic fishing town facing an uncertain future, threatening a way of life, once
♪ his name was van cliburn and became an overnight sensation when he won a piano competition in moscow in 1958, back when such a thing could create an overnight sensation. a 23-year-old kid from texas who entered the tchaikovsky international competition at the height of the cold war and he won first place. it earned him a ticker tape parade in new york city. the juilliard graduate became a global celebrity. while he remained private and shy, he retired from the concert stage at the age of 44. the great van cliburn died today in the home of ft. worth, his home of many years. he was 78 years old.
hostess brands, which is liquidating its business in bankruptcy after 82 years has found a buyer for at least one of its main products tonight, wonder bread will be back on shelves sometime soon after flowers foods, the company behind nature's own and tasty cakes starts up the line. they won it at auction. now, the twinkie brand goes up for auction next month. there is apparently a lot of wagering on sports in this country. a lot of it surrounding the ncaa march madness playoffs. and so in that spirit, being that the catholic church is in the process of selecting a new pope, please welcome the sweet sistine, the religion news service has put together first-round voting brackets on the favorites for pope, including the odds on each, just like all the european betting parlors. up next here tonight, a history-making honor today for the woman whose singular act of disobedience launched a
alabama bus in 1955. she couldn't know then that over a half century later her statue would be unveiled in the u.s. capitol. nbc's kelly o'donnell was there. >> ladies and gentlemen, the statue of rosa parks. >> reporter: history lived and history made. >> rosa parks' singular act of disobedience launched a movement. >> reporter: until today, until rosa parks, no african-american woman has ever been honored in this way. a statue among the nation's war heroes and presidents. >> ms. parks, alone in that seat, clutching her purse, staring out a window. waiting to be arrested. >> reporter: montgomery, alabama, 1955. on a segregated bus, parks took a stand, determined that she would remain seated, refusing the driver's order to make way for a white customer. her cause helped change the course of a long civil rights struggle. a legacy richly documented and
carried on by a friend who was there. >> i admired this woman. i loved her. because she gave me a way out. >> reporter: congressman john lewis says parks, who died in 2005, had not sought attention, but came to accept that she was a symbol that inspired. >> without rosa parks, there wouldn't have been martin luther king jr. and maybe without rosa parks and martin luther king jr., there would be no barack obama. >> reporter: for sculptor eugene daub, knowing rosa parks came through hundreds of photos. >> she seemed to me a very -- not shy, but modest. a very modest woman. and i wanted that -- that to come through. her modesty. >> reporter: daub worked from clay to fashion a likeness that was ultimately cast in bronze. >> we wanted to come up with something that was unique and was somehow even more symbolic
than the seat itself, which was the fact of her determination. >> reporter: now rosa parks' courage holds a permanent place of honor. kelly o'donnell, nbc news, the capitol. that's our broadcast on a wednesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. and we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. right now at 6:00 flags fly at half-staff at police departments around the bay area as these departments mourn the loss of two santa cruz officers killed in the line of duty. and tonight we're learning new information about the man behind the deadly shoot-out. good evening, everyone. i'm janelle wang in for jessica aguirre. >> and i'm raj mathai.
there are many new developments in that deadly shooting in santa cruz. the accused killer was a military man who recently lived here in the bay area and the officers who died leave behind family and the community both in santa cruz and beyond is uniting at this hour. we've a series of reports from the coast this evening. kris sanchez has more on the officers killed in the line of duty. but we begin with nbc bay area's marianne favro with details of the ongoing investigation. marianne? >> reporter: raj, this is are where the suspect, jeremy goulet, was shot and killed by officer after a gun battle here yesterday afternoon. investigators now say he was carrying three weapons. they also say he was wearing body armor. the distinct sound caught on tape by neighbor, a sound that puncuates a tragic ending, a sound neighbors can't forget. >> i heard a barrage of gunfire lasting between 20 and 30 seconds.
>> reporter: what we now know is two santa cruz police officers, detective elizabeth butler and 28-year veteran sergeant l 0 oran "butch" baker were shot and killed while investigating a sexual assault case. jesse believes he was the last person to talk to the officers before they were shot to death. >> they asked me if i knew anyone named jeremy, i said, well, i didn't know anyone named jeremy. the female oflser mentioned early on in the conversation that they were trying to contact the suspect and he wouldn't answer the door. >> reporter: that suspect is jeremy goulet who moved to santa cruz. we know he was distraught. that's evidenced by not only the murder